Monday, June 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter: a Call for Poems and Microfiction

Black Lives Matter: Poems for a New Word (CivicLeicester, 2020) is now available*

CivicLeicester is inviting and accepting poems and short fiction on the theme, Black Lives Matter.

We welcome submissions exploring any of the images, issues, triggers, histories, lives, demands and outcomes that are being highlighted by Black Lives Matter and current and past protests.

We welcome submissions from writers of all ages, based anywhere in the world.

The video of George Floyd dying as a white policeman pressed his knee against Floyd's neck and kept it there even after Floyd had stopped speaking or moving has triggered weeks of mass protests around the world.

The protests are taking place in the midst of a global pandemic that is also disproportionately killing people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Around the world people are demanding justice.

"Black Lives Matter", "Hands up, don't shoot", "Am I a threat?", "I can't breathe", "White silence is violence", "No justice, no peace", "Is my son next?", "Get your knee off my neck" have become rallying calls against police brutality and against the killing of Black people by the police. They have become rallying calls against racism, racial profiling and racialised inequality, discrimination and oppression.

Please send the poems and short fiction to by 2pm on Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Submission Guidelines

● Poems should be 40 lines or less, and short fiction, 100 words or less.
● The poems and short fiction should be on the theme, Black Lives Matter.
● Submissions must be in English. In the case of translated work, it is the translator’s responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright holder of the original work.
● If submitting a poem or short fiction which has been previously published, please give details of where it has appeared and confirm that you are the copyright holder.
● Ideally submissions will be typed single spaced and submitted either in the body of an email or as a .doc attachment.
● Please include a short biography of 50 words or less. This will be included in the anthology if your poem is accepted. If you do not send a biography, it will be assumed you do not wish your biography to appear in the anthology.
● You may submit a maximum of three poems or three pieces of short fiction or a combination of poems and short fiction. You do not have to submit all three at the same time, but the editors can only consider a maximum of three submissions.
● We welcome submissions from writers of all ages, based anywhere in the world.
● Please send the poems and short fiction to by 2pm on Tuesday, 7 July 2020.


1. Black Lives Matter poetry anthology fundraising page
2. Black Lives Matter, Wikipedia entry
3. CivicLeicester is an indy publisher that uses video, photography and the arts to highlight conversations
*Updated on 17 November 2020 to show that Black Lives Matter: Poems for a New World (CivicLeicester, 2020) is now available.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Interview _ Siobhan Logan

Siobhan Logan is a storyteller and poet.

Her first collection of poems and non-fiction, Firebridge to Skyshore: A Northern Lights Journey (original plus, 2009), was sponsored by auroral scientists at the University of Leicester. It was performed at the British Science Museum, the National Space Centre and Ledbury Poetry festival.

Her second collection, Mad, Hopeless & Possible: Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition, was also published by Original Plus Press, whilst Philae’s Book of Hours was published on the European Space Agency’s website.

Logan's poetry is widely published in magazines and short stories appear in various anthologies, including Wednesday’s Child (Factor Fiction, forthcoming 2020), Leicester Writes Anthology 2017 (Dahlia Books) and Mrs Rochester’s Attic (Mantle Press 2017). In 2014, she led a WW1 writing residency for 14-18 NOW and in 2015 co-edited a Five Leaves Books anthology for refugee solidarity, Over Land, Over Sea.

She is co-director of indie publisher, Space Cat Press, who published her poetry/ non-fiction collection Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced to Space in 2019. When not being led astray by stories or dodging the claws of an errant ‘space cat’, Logan teaches Creative Writing at De Montfort University.

In this interview, Siobhan Logan talks about poetry, Desert Moonfire and the race to space.

How would you describe Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced To Space?

Desert Moonfire is a collection of poetry and non-fiction about the era when humans became a space-faring species. The narrative centres on two scientists, Sergei Korolev and Wernher von Braun, who designed the rockets that got us there. These two rivals from either side of the Iron Curtain mirrored each other’s lives in uncanny ways, as they struggled to realise their dreams of spaceflight. And it turns out to be a rather dark tale with our protagonists passing through gulags and concentration camps as well as nuclear near misses along the way.

The rocket technology was very much a product of superpower conflict, with the Cold War driving the whole Sixties space project. So that stark front cover depicting a night-time rocket launch captures the mood of Desert Moonfire’s story – both ‘chilling and exhilarating.’ However, I did also get interested in how science fiction first sparked these impossible imaginings for early space pioneers. And indeed, how scientists eventually used sci-fi films and TV shows to harness the public’s support for realising such costly and dangerous ventures.

What influences does Desert Moonfire draw on?

I’m never aware of particular influences when I write. But years of reading – non-fiction, poetry, fiction – no doubt seeped into the boggy ground that I worked over for this project. And sometimes got lost in. It took me seven years, all told. Lots of biographies and books about the Space Race. Also immersing myself in films, TV shows and other art of the period. Because this book did feel rather like writing historical fiction.

I loved going back to read the sci-fi of Jules Verne, HG Wells and others and watching obscure Russian sci-fi films as well as Hollywood B movies etc.

The book began with a sequence of poems which are imaginative re-enactments of real-life events. My friend Rod Duncan has described these as ‘non-fiction poems’. But I approach the material as a storyteller and I’ve been drawn to other poets who write in narrative form. So I think of Susan Richardson’s marvellous sequences about Arctic explorers in Creatures of the Intertidal Zone (Cinnamon Press, 2007) or Lydia Towsey’s The Venus Papers (Burning Eye Books 2015) where the goddess washes ashore in the UK as a Mediterranean migrant. Or the poems of Emma Lee who unfolds tightly compressed narratives in a single poem with great delicacy. Like Desert Moonfire, Lee often draws upon true-life histories, whether WW2 children in the Blitz or women navigating refugee camps more recently. (See The Significance of a Dress, Arachne Press 2020). So yes, I enjoy poetry collections with lots of storytelling and big thematic sweeps, whether historical, mythical or contemporary.

Why does poetry matter?

Why does any creative work matter? Perhaps the instinct to create might counter that to destroy. Or at least keep us sane.

At a time when the world seems to be in free-fall, when we are racked by political crises, a global pandemic and the accelerating crisis of climate change, stories have never been more important. They are at the heart of who we are and how we envision our future as well as our past. They transmit our values and generate the stuff of identity.

My book about the Sixties Space Race came out in 2019 just as the world was moving into a second Space Race. Many countries and companies are chasing to colonise the Moon’s South Pole and its buried supplies of water and minerals. It’s worth looking back to understand the dynamics that drove the last Space Race and ask whether we want to write a different narrative this time round.

Poems to me are stories but in a sung form. Carol Ann Duffy talks about poems singing the stuff of our lives, the everyday as well as the big life events. Like the people singing in deserted streets or calling from balconies, poems will be passed across our spaces of isolation. They remind us of the hidden music of our lives and relationships.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into Desert Moonfire?

The problematic aspects of the work always generate the most interesting material and push you to dig deep creatively. With non-fiction, it’s about doing masses of research and then compressing these large, complex narratives into a few chapters that each have their own distinct story arc. Trying to make sure the research doesn’t suffocate the narrative. So I’m using novelistic techniques to give pace and urgency to the story of two men caught up in this superpower to chase to the Moon.

For Wernher von Braun, the Prussian baron, it was always a matter of opportunism. Pitching his projects first to the Nazis and then to the American state, to win a chance at ‘the Big Time’, as he called it. But Sergei Korolev faced an ongoing struggle to survive the upheavals of Russia’s Civil war, Stalinist Purges and Soviet realpolitik.

Mostly this comes across as a very male world, as my title suggests. It’s typified by von Braun’s engineers decorating their V-2 test rockets with the logo of a naked woman astride a crescent moon. Women surfaced in sci-fi films as alien sirens or glamorous astronauts but seemed confined to the spectators’ stadium or the back office in the real space programme. The truth was more complex of course. It’s only recently that NASA’s begun to acknowledge and celebrate long-buried accounts of its female and Afro-American ‘Hidden Figures’.

The core of my narrative remains two men from either side of the Cold war locked into the machine of political conflict. But I did explore their relationships with women and wanted those voices to come through in certain poems.

The challenge with the poetry was to find a human centre, given this context of technology and global politics. While the non-fiction chapters conjure up vast social forces at work, the poems open intimate windows into the two men’s lives. They put us right there, in the immediacy of their world.

Often with poetry, it’s about finding a surprising metaphor or image that illuminates the scene. So when I was writing about Korolev sitting out the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, I came across a brief reference to his wife Nina serving up a watermelon. What a gift that was! The whole poem "Martian Watermelon" was built around that footnote, from the red fleshy fruit to the sound of the pips. His men had been trying to launch a rocket to Mars when their launch pad was taken over by the military to ready a nuclear missile for firing.

By contrast, I’d read several accounts of the night the secret police arrested him in the Thirties but couldn’t find out what music he put on the record player while he waited for the knock on the door. That gave me freedom to invent. The spiky rhythms of a tango inspired two poems about the police harassment that dogged his career. So these unexpected details pulled me into their world and I hope that works for the reader too.

What sets the book apart from other things you’ve written? And in what way is it similar to the others

Desert Moonfire is similar to my previous collections, such as Firebridge to Skyshore: A Northern Lights Journey, in that it combines poetry and non-fiction with a strong narrative structure and touches on science, history and politics along the way.

My chapbook Mad, Hopeless & Possible: Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition told an equally dramatic story of two linked Antarctic expeditions during 1914-17 when notions of empire-building and heroism collided in devastating ways. That was another all-male adventure shaped by the somewhat toxic ideologies of the time.

Yet Desert Moonfire is a scaled-up narrative. It starts off discussing the 19th century science-fiction which inspired a generation of rocketeers and rounds off their story in the 1970s, a century later. So yes, the ambition of this book marked a shift for me. I was in no hurry with it, wanting the book to find its own form and the right publishing home too.

Where Firebridge and Mad, Hopeless & Possible both centred on journeying across wild frozen landscapes, Desert Moonfire has a biographical impulse, tracing the life journeys of two men who lived through extraordinary times.

I have noticed there’s various styles and voices here, including poems about deserts and cars and movies, shape poems inspired by rocket technology, dramatic monologues in the voice of bystanders and loved ones, poems of gulags and concentration camps as well as space modules and two lunar book enders. So hopefully something for everyone.

How did you chose a publisher for the book? Why this publisher? And what advantages or disadvantages has this presented?

For some time, I weighed up whether to tilt this book more towards the popular non-fiction market, given the expanding scale of the narrative. Or alternatively to strip it down to a poetry chapbook with a tight focus on these two men’s intertwined lives. I researched possible publishers from both angles. In the end, I decided I wanted to try something different with this book. I knew from my previous collections that there is an audience for this kind of non-fiction and poetry combination but it is a niche audience that I encountered mainly by giving talks, shows and face-to-face readings.

With the sci-fi and space science strand in Desert Moonfire, I was thinking of taking this new book to SFF conventions too.

So I decided to set up my own imprint, Space Cat Press, with an eye on further space-themed books I have on the back-burner. And I was lucky enough to embark on that as a collaboration with freelance editor Darragh Logan Davies. She is the Kaylee of our Firefly rocket and without her, we’d never have got into orbit.

Having got that far, we considered the possibility of using our press to also publish work by other writers, in the form of space-themed anthologies. In that sense, Space Cat Press is a hybrid, combining an indie-author venture with micro-publishing at the non-commercial end of small presses. It’s enabled me to structure the Desert Moonfire book in exactly the way I wanted to and I’m thrilled with the design Darragh came up with. I love the feel and look of the finished article. Plus I’ve learnt a huge amount about how book production and marketing works.

The disadvantages are it takes a lot of time and energy. That’s definitely slowing my writing progress on new projects. We did rush into the anthology rather quickly after publishing Desert Moonfire, so it’s hard to get on with marketing that whilst editing our Race to the Stars submissions. But it’s been so much fun and a real inspiration to work with stories, poems and flash fiction by other writers and watching the anthology take shape. Everything from detailed structural and copy edits to budgeting to working out the brand of the book. And soon we’ll be getting to grips with e-publishing and doing virtual launches as well. Quite the small-press adventure.

What will your next book be about? And, what else are you working on?

Well, I’ll have editors’ credits on our Space Cat anthology, (working title Race to the Stars) which should be out in e-book format by the summer of 2020.

I then have a small chapbook lined up for the SCP roster with a sequence of poems about the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to chase a comet. An earlier digital version of this, Philae’s Book of Hours, appeared on the ESA website in 2015.

There’s another sprawling non-fiction book on the back-burner about those Space Race sci-fi films I got so engrossed with whilst researching Desert Moonfire. But on the front burner, right now, I’ve dividing my time between a poetry chapbook about my father (who passed away recently) and a dystopian fantasy novel which will probably develop into a trilogy - if I can ever get this first book edited into a readable shape!

So in between teaching creative writing at De Montfort University and running a small press publishing outfit, there are plenty of writing projects competing for my time.

See also:

Interview _ Siobhan Logan, Conversations with Writers, February 20, 2010
Interview _ Siobhan Logan, Conversations with Writers, 4 June 2007
Interview _ Siobhan Logan, Conversations with Writers, 11 April 2007

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Interview _ Andrew Button

Andrew Button lives in Market Bosworth in western Leicestershire, England.

His poems have been published in magazines that include Orbis, Staple, The Interpreter’s House, Iota and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

His pamphlet, Dry Days in Wet Towns, was published in 2016 and a first full collection, Melted Cheese on the Cosmic Pizza in 2017 by erbacce press.

In this interview, Andrew Button talks about his latest collection of poems Music for Empty Car Parks and poetry in the time of Covid-19.

How would you describe Music for Empty Car Parks?

Music for Empty Car Parks is an eclectic mix of poems that wryly observe life with all its quirks and obsessions. Eccentricity and human preoccupations particularly fascinate me. You could say that is my poetical obsession!

How long did it take you to put the book together?

I have a large back catalogue of poems written over the years and it was a matter of selecting the best ones, old and new. I really enjoy the process and quite often it involves some revisions and even virtual re-writes.

The book itself came out in January 2020 and was published by Erbacce Press in Liverpool.

How did you chose a publisher for the book?

Erbacce published my previous book, Melted Cheese on the Cosmic Pizza at the end of 2017 which was my first full collection (and still available to buy from the publisher’s website and on Amazon). I respect erbacce and their publishing philosophy which is all about supporting the poet’s development. It was not a difficult choice to ask them to publish my second book. I have a positive and well established relationship with them and, of course, it helps that they actually like my poetry!!

Who is your target audience?

I have always maintained that my audience are adults still amazed or willing to be amazed by the wonders of human nature. As my favourite author, Ray Bradbury said, the most rounded adults are those that still retain an element of that childlike sense of wonder.

My aim as a poet is to make people laugh and ponder at the same time.

What influences does Music for Empty Car Parks draw on?

Poetically, I am largely influenced by the likes of Simon Armitage, Ian McMillan, Philip Larkin, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri to mention but a few.

In an unorthodox way, I am also heavily influenced by the science fiction and fantasy stories of the American author, Ray Bradbury. His fiction was very poetic. I read every single word of his voraciously from the age of 13.

Music and lyrics have also inspired me, too, and I would like to think that although I am not a rhyming poet per se, that my poems have an intrinsic rhythm. I am certainly an alliteration junkie!

Why does poetry matter?

Ah, the £64,000 question - or more like £64 in the case of a poet!

Even in the difficult days, in an unassuming way, poetry matters. People are popping up on programmes like BBC Breakfast with their poems about life in lockdown, their hopes and fears laid out in verse.

I think poetry is the undercurrent of our lives and poets are the ones who bring it to the surface for public consumption.

Increasingly, poets are finding a variety of imaginative ways to spread the words; online, outside, indoors, on beer mats… Social media and the internet has played a very important part.

You say why poetry matters is the £64,000 or £64 question. What do you mean by this? Why £64,000? And why £64?

What I mean is that it is the big question for poets and the poetry world. The example of £64 instead of £64,000 is a jocular reference to the fact that most poets don’t make much more but are grateful for what they earn.

With (or in) Music for Empty Car Parks, what would you say are your main concerns?

Yes. I do have my go-to themes. All writers and artists have their fixations. Some can focus on just one and write a whole book of poetry about it.

I have discovered that most humour comes from humour behaviour. I love watching people, eavesdropping, reading about their antics.

In the new book I have written a trilogy of poems about a man who is the world authority on roundabouts. His quirky singlemindedness is absorbing to me as a poet and of course there is a lot of comedy in his story. He’s been married three times for example. So, obviously, his all-consuming passion for roundabouts has affected his ability to maintain an intimate personal relationship (at least three times).

I have a quirky sense of humour myself which comes through in my book. Hopefully, my poet’s world view is unique.

I strive to find the unusual in everyday situations whether it’s marvelling at the variety of different toilet rolls or the removal of expiry dates on cucumbers in supermarkets.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

If I’m honest, I don’t write many poems about myself and if I do it is often in the third person. There are occasional exceptions. For example, in the poem “Life lessons” in Music from Empty Car Parks, I write about a history teacher who inspired me at school. It isn’t because I can’t, but more about my natural writing style as an observer and commentator. Humour helps me to express myself and I like to explore subjects that interest me as well.

Having said all that, there are poems in my new book like “Six Month Man” where it is obvious, despite being written in the third person, that it is autobiographical albeit unashamedly comical. It is true to say, though, that I can see the funny side to most situations and experiences (including my own).

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I enjoy the whole process of creating a poem from the conception of the idea, the research, compilation of ideas, forming of the poem and refinement in the writing to the finished product (some argue that a poem or story is never finished but that is another discussion to be had at another time). It is such an immense thrill when you get the seed of an idea and it grows. Sometimes, it feels as if you are given the idea from the poetic ether. That as poets we retrieve these vague ideas and shape them into poems.

What sets the book apart from other things you've written?

I see the latest book more as another instalment in my writing career. It’s a philosophy of ‘welcome to the wacky world of Andrew Button’. I am always writing about new subjects and themes that interest me and striving to do so in entertaining ways. So, that will be evident over the two books I have written, I hope. The style is the same but the content is different.

In what way is it similar to the others?

It is similar in that there is a recognisable style. The same observational slant by and large. The mantra of chronicling human absurdity continues. It’s what I get off on as a writer!

Can you say more about the title poem?

The title poem started out as a poem in its own right before I decided to use it as the title of my collection. The inspiration for that poem came literally from an empty car park blaring out music. I thought to myself, How pointless. This then inspired me to write a poem about pointless situations. I had a lot of fun with that poem which really  lends itself to live performance!

How has Music for Empty Car Parks been affected by the state we are in with the coronavirus and Covid-19?

The book was conceived and collated before Coronavirus. So, in that sense there is no obvious connection. I hope, though, that my book might act as an antidote against the dark thoughts and despair prevalent in these dystopian times.

Smiles and laughter have not been outlawed.

And can you say more about the poem about toilet paper?

“The Bottom Line” is a poem that chronicles and celebrates the history of toilet paper manufacture in the UK encompassing the ghastly and the great!

My initial point of reference was my hideous childhood experiences with a severe medicated toilet paper that was a common feature of my school life in the 70s and 80s. With friends of the same age I was reminiscing about the notoriety of this product and even found an online forum where people were sharing their adverse experiences!

One of the ways people have responded to the coronavirus is by stockpiling toilet rolls? How would you explain this?

I think the whole toilet roll stockpiling syndrome is a symptom of the panic that broke out when people thought they would be holed up at home for weeks (which they are now, ha, ha). Basically, a siege mentality. I saw someone reacting to this online and it made me chuckle, because they quite rightly pointed out that if people contracted the virus, it wouldn't be coming out of that end!!!

What do you think a post-Covid 19 world could look like? Are there things the world is learning that it should retain? Are there things the world should let go of?

Hopefully, a post-Covid 19 world will mean there is a greater sense of community around the world and especially in the UK. Also, I would like to think that we will value the work of NHS and care workers more (increased Government funding will contribute to this significantly). More kindness and consideration to the more vulnerable members of our society must ensue. Overall, appreciating our families and life itself would be a desirable outcome.

And what will be the role of the poet in that world?

I see poets as imaginative observers and commentators. Most of us hold a light up to the world as it is and as it could be. We can be poetic healers with our metaphors and similes, insights and humour.

What will your next book be about?

It may be another smorgasbord of themes that tantalise me, or untypically for me, carry one thread through it. I don’t really know at the moment. It could even be a poetic view of the Coronavirus crisis we are living with. I have been keeping a daily diary of my poetic thoughts and observations of life in lockdown. So, watch this space!

What else are you working on?

I am currently involved in putting together a poetry performance for the Leamington Poetry Festival in July (if it still goes ahead). It features myself and three other fellow poets from the Midlands.

The show will be called Meta4.

We are all quirky, observational poets with a unique view of the world we inhabit.
Hopefully, it will happen and if it does come along and see it at the Temperance Art Café in Leamington Spa on Saturday 4th July at 3.30pm. Four local poets sparking off each other in an engaging melee of metaphors, similes, rhythms and rhymes.


● Details of Andrew Button’s books can be found on the erbacce press website.
● See also: Interview: Andrew Button, Conversations with Writers, 12 June 2019

Friday, March 27, 2020

Interview _ Emma Lee

Emma Lee was born in South Gloucestershire and now lives in Leicestershire. She is on the committee of Leicester Writers’ Club and the steering group for the Leicester Writers’ Showcase.

Her poems, short stories and articles have appeared in many anthologies and magazines. Some of her poems have been been translated into languages that include Chinese, Farsi, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Romanian.

Emma Lee co-edited Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016). She has four poetry collections, The Significance of a Dress (Arachne Press, 2020), Ghosts in the Desert (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015), Mimicking a Snowdrop (Thynks, 2014) and Yellow Torchlight and the Blues (Original Plus, 2004).

Her latest collection, The Significance of A Dress, has been described as "Poems informed by, and immersed in politics. Whether investigating the lives of refugees, families or women in crisis, everything has a significance beyond the surface. Beautiful, hair-raising words and form, utterly from the heart."

In this interview, Emma Lee talks about poetry and The Significance of A Dress.

How long did it take you to put the collection together?

The Significance of a Dress started back in 2015 when I was involved in co-editing Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), an anthology to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and raise funds for refugee charities.

After the anthology's publication, I was involved in the Journeys Poems Pop-up Library where postcards of some of the poems were distributed at Leicester Railway Station during Everybody's Reading 2016. In 2017, the start of Everybody's Reading coincided with International Translation Day so I organised an event where 13 of the poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge were read in their original English and one translation. In turn this led to my setting up Journeys in Translation.

By 2018 I had a collection of refugee-themed poems but hadn't really thought about getting them published as a collection although individual poems had been published in magazines and anthologies.

How did you chose a publisher for the collection? Why this publisher? And, what advantages or disadvantages has this presented?

Arachne Press put a call out for submissions for an anthology in 2018. Arachne like to publish a group of poems by each poet rather than just have one or two poems by each. I submitted some of my refugee poems.

Arachne Press got back and said they didn't want to put my poems in their anthology but were interested in a single author collection. The only sensible response to that request was to ask how many poems they wanted and The Significance of a Dress was born.

I'd been published in some of the anthologies Arachne had produced previously so I knew I was working with a committed, caring publisher.

The disadvantages so far have not been with the publisher but with the Covid-19 pandemic. I was due to hold a Leicester launch on 11 March but the venue was pulled with less than 24 hours' notice. Fortunately I found another and a launch still went ahead on 14 March. However, most poetry books are sold at readings and book fairs and those are all on hold for now.

Who is your target audience?

Anyone with an interest in the themes explored within.

Why does poetry matter?

It's difficult to reduce it to a soundbite. Jean-Claude Juncker said poetry doesn't matter and the focus should be on people's first needs, shelter and food. But that's a very reductive way of looking at humans. Maya Angelou spoke of there being no greater violence than an untold story within you. But refugees aren't always able to tell their stories and, for some, not telling their stories is more important than triggering their trauma by repeating stories. So poetry becomes a way of bearing witness, exploring those stories and raising awareness. Poetry's brevity and structure offer a way of processing strong emotions; we turn to poetry in times of hardship and in times of joy.

With (or in) the collection, what would you say are your main concerns? How do you deal with these concerns?

Themes emerge not only of refugees but violence done to, for example, women, through discrimination and dehumanisation. Through my poems I try to humanise those who have been rendered voiceless.

What influences does The Significance of a Dress draw on? 

I don't think there were any specific influences in The Significance of a Dress. I read and review widely so no doubt readers might pick up influences I wasn't aware of. I do try and indicate positives, even in traumatic subjects, such as those small acts of kindness that can make a huge difference.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

I didn't conceive of the poems within The Significance of a Dress as a book until Arachne invited me to put a collection together. I was conscious that the main themes would make for hard reading so endeavoured to put in some lighter moments, such as a poem about playing a piano on College Green ("How Rapunzel Ends") or a bank teller struggling to spell a surname ("When Your Name's Not Smith" and the transformative power of music ("Put a Spell on those February Blues").

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

The lack of pressure: because I wasn't selecting sample poems and sending them off to a publisher in the hope they'd consider a collection, the process of selecting and shaping The Significance of a Dress was done when I knew a publisher was interested.

What sets the book apart from other things you've written?

My first collection Yellow Torchlight and the Blues was hugely inspired by my time as a music reviewer. My second Mimicking a Snowdrop drew on a poet's autobiography and aspects of her life, particularly during the Second World War when she used her nurse's training to be a first responder and did voluntary work in a disadvantaged children's playgroup. My third Ghosts in the Desert features a lot of ghosts and contains a sequence about The Matrix.

So, the topics and issues explored in The Significance of a Dress are very different. It's also the first of my books to feature one of my embroideries on the cover.

In what way is it similar to the others?

I think some topics link all four collections, discrimination, feeling like an outsider, explorations of whose voices don't get heard and why that might be.

What will your next book be about?

No idea. I'm always writing poems, stories, reviews, articles so I don't think in terms of focusing on a next book. I keep writing and when I seem to have a body of work, I start arranging poems by theme and see what emerges.

What else are you working on?

I'm now reviews editor for The Blue Nib and still reviewing for other magazines. I have a couple of short stories to edit and am still writing individual poems, one based on Bruce Springsteen's explanation of why he doesn't like wind chimes.

See also:

● Interview _ Emma Lee, Conversations with Writers, 19 April 2017
● Interview _ Emma Lee, Conversations with Writers, 27 April 2007